Something about Shanties

Shanties, if you don’t know, are traditional working songs sung by sailors in times gone by – when commercial boats had masts, yards and sails and sailing them was hard and dangerous work.

The songs were used, for example, to keep a group of sailors in time when hauling on a line, sheet, warp or any other rope.  They’re usually simple, often with a ‘call & response’ format – a shanty-man sings the verse and the sailors reply with the chorus.  This repeats until the job is done – hence the songs often have a considerable number of verses.  They travelled from ship to ship and port to port, being handed between crews and evolving as they went – resulting in many versions of the same song and many similar songs that have a common, but distant, root.

Kelp! is a Swanage based shanty crew that I’m sometimes proud to be a part of.  We sing to anyone who’ll listen, whether invited or not, at a variety of local events.  Our primary goal is to have a bit of fun.  Second on the list is to raise money for the Swanage Lifeboat or whatever charity the event we’re at is raising money for.  Third is to provide a bit of entertainment.  Two out of three isn’t too bad.